This week’s edition of Five on Friday features five subscription trends we’ll see in 2021, the impressive success of local news outlets in 2020, and what to expect from the redesign of Facebook Pages, including the elimination of the Like button. Also, we share five SEO tips subscription companies will need to optimize their websites this year, along with the news that Walmart has partnered with Ribbit Capital to create a fintech startup.
5 Subscription Trends We’ll See in 2021
The subscription economy was booming long before COVID came along, and the pandemic has boosted subscriptions, memberships and SaaS in many categories. Here are five subscription trends we’ll see more of this year.
- Shifts in streaming business models: Streaming video subscription services are huge with new players joining the game all the time. What will be different this year is that maturing services will shift their business models to be more profitable and to offer customers more options. For example, in 2020, we saw Disney+, Netflix and HBO Max abandon free trials. This year, we’ll see at least one service – HBO Max – add an ad-supported tier to grow its customer base. In late 2020, we started to see price increases in services like Disney+ and Netflix. While such increases will create some churn, unless the churn is overwhelming, other streaming services will follow.
- User experience: Whether your company offers beauty boxes or SaaS, user experience will be critical in attracting and retaining customers. Great promotional offers might draw in a user, but if the customer journey is plagued with problems and pitfalls, they won’t stick around. For example, if you make it difficult for a customer to upgrade, pause or cancel their subscription, you could lose them. Put yourself in the subscriber’s shoes, and build your UX to maximize that experience. And then, test, test, test…
- Customer-centricity versus product-focused: One thing we heard repeatedly at Subscription Show 2020, available on demand, is that customer-focused subscription companies will be the most successful. Sure, they still have to offer a great product or service, but subscription companies that only care about sales will not maximize customer lifetime value. To earn a subscriber’s loyalty, you must put them first.
- Personalized experiences: In keeping with the customer-centric theme, subscribers expect personalized experiences. Vindicia recommends companies use data to help personalize offerings to their subscribers. This can be done through predictive analysis, subscription intelligence and other tools to create customized offers that make customers feel valued.
- Subscription box growth in key categories: With millions stuck at home during the pandemic, certain types of subscription boxes grew in popularity – those focused on self-care, health, entertainment, workplace productivity, and novelty. We may not be able to go to the mall or shop in our favorite local stores, but getting an affordable surprise in the mail every month will, indeed, be something to look forward to in 2021!
For more subscription trends for the coming year, check out our subscriber-only article, Subscription Insider’s Subscription Predictions for 2021, published earlier this week.
Local News Outlets Saw 50% Increase in Digital Subscriptions Last Year
I don’t think any of us would argue that 2020 was a disappointing year in many ways. From politics and the pandemic to jobs and the economy, the entire year was entrenched in turmoil of one kind or another. It wasn’t a total loss though. Local news outlets saw a 50% increase in digital subscriptions last year, reports Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative.
Mather Economics, a consulting firm that specializes in subscription data, analyzed data from news outlets in 138 media markets. Here are highlights from their research:
The Subscription Experience
March 4, 2021 • Noon Eastern
- Digital circulation increased 51.2% between November 2019 and November 2020.
- For the same period, print circulation decreased 12.9%.
- 25.6% of all new subscriptions in 2020 were digital, an increase over prior years.
- Retention for print and digital subscribers was 63.2% in 2019 and 70.9% for 2020.
Medill shared the following data, provided by news outlets.
- Gannett had 1.029 million paid digital-only subscribers in Q3 2020, a 31.1% increase year-over-year.
- By the end of Q3 2020, Tribune Publishing reported 427,000 digital subscribers, a 36% increase over the same period in 2019.
- The Los Angeles Times grew from 168,061 paid digital-only subscribers in January 2020 to 256,938 in December 2020, a 52.8% increase in 11 months.
The $64,000 question is whether these trends sustainable long-term. That is a question that is as complicated as the many business models and media organizations that comprise “local news” in America. Tim Franklin, head of the Medill Local News Initiative, answered it this way.
“This year has been an epic train wreck in so many ways. But it’s highlighted the essential role of local news and information in our communities. And the demand for local news this year came at the same time that many news organizations were aggressively pivoting to a reader revenue business model. The result has been a spike in digital subscriptions, especially at some larger regional outlets,” Franklin said.
For the full report, “Local News Outlets Boost Digital Subscriptions by about 50% in a Year” by Mark Jacob, visit the LocalNewsInitiative.Northwestern.edu online.
Facebook Redesign Will Eliminate ‘Like’ Button from Brand Pages
If your subscription company uses Facebook for promotion and engaging with prospects and subscribers, watch for a page redesign that will eliminate the ‘like’ button. Wait, what?!! The social media platform has other changes planned but removing the ‘like’ button from brand pages is the most significant.
The rationale behind the move is to focus more on followers, rather than those who have liked the page. Facebook believes that the number of followers is a more accurate metric of a page’s popularity. Think of it this way. Have you ever ‘liked’ a page because a friend or company invited you to like it, but then ‘unfollowed’ the page so its posts didn’t show up in your news feed?
“We are removing Likes and focusing on Followers to simplify the way people connect with their favorite Pages. Unlike Likes, Followers of a Page represent the people who can receive updates from Pages, which helps give public figures a stronger indication of their fan base,” said Asad Awan, head of public connections and monetization, in a January 6, 2021 blog post.
This feels like a big change, but the number of likes and followers are “vanity metrics” that make us feel good about the content we’re sharing. They indicate interest in a brand, but they do not truly measure engagement or conversions, nor do they provide enough meaningful data to inform strategy.
Other changes include the following:
- Cleaner, streamlined layout
- Easy navigation between personal profiles and public Pages
- A dedicated News Feed
- Q&A format to engage fans
- Safety features to detect inappropriate content such as hate speech
- Better task-based admin controls
Facebook is in the process of rolling out changes to pages in the coming months, so if your brand’s Page has been updated yet, stay tuned…the changes are coming soon!
5 SEO Tips for 2021
Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to getting your subscription company’s website noticed, so that when prospects search online, you rank at the top of page 1. Search engines like Google regularly change their algorithms which makes SEO a bit of a moving target. What worked five years ago may not work today. Here are five SEO tips to optimize for in 2021:
- Quality content: Search Engine Watch says that the adage that content is king remains true, regardless of the form of content – written, audio, video, infographics, images, etc. Keep your content fresh, make it reader-friendly by “chunking out” sections with subheads, use interesting headlines, and support your written content with appropriate visuals. Bonus tip: Consider updating older content to keep it fresh.
- Mobile friendliness: If you want people to visit your subscription or membership website, it MUST be mobile friendly. According to Web FX, 52.2% of all website traffic is generated on mobile phones with 61% of shoppers most likely to buy from a mobile-friendly website. To be mobile friendly, your site needs to load quickly, your web design should be simple. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Check out Google’s free mobile-friendly testing tool.
- EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust): Web CEO recommends that brands focus on the EAT concept which proves your authority to prospects and customers. Google wants to serve up sites that share relevant, fresh and proven data, not controversial or harmful information. To help boost your EAT, use your company’s About Us page to your advantage. Explain who you are, what you’re about, and why you’re in business. List your awards, positive reviews and testimonials, and only link to authoritative sources.
- Optimize for voice search: If you are familiar with Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, you have probably searched for something on the web, whether it was to ask about the weather, where to buy the best holiday gifts, or what the best streaming services are. Optimize your search terms for voice queries, says SEM Rush. How? Think about how you would ask a voice assistant a question, compared to what you would type into a search engine. For example, if you were looking for a subscription box for your husband on Google, you might type, “best subscription boxes for men.” To optimize that for voice search, use longer phrases that would more naturally occur in a conversation. For example, “Alexa, show me the most popular subscription boxes for men,” or “Siri, suggest a subscription box for my husband’s birthday.”
- Optimize images for searchability: SEM Rush says that image optimization is becoming more important. When using visuals to complement your content, use high-quality images. Use a custom file name that clearly identifies what the image is (Amazon Luna 2020 logo.jpg versus Image 123.jpg), and use the alt tags to identify your images. This is great for SEO and for accessibility purposes.
Have SEO tips to share that work for your subscription site? Email us at email@example.com, and we may feature them in an upcoming edition of Five on Friday!
Walmart Partners with Ribbit Capital to Create Fintech Startup
In an interesting move, Walmart announced the creation of a fintech startup with global investment firm Ribbit Capital. Using Walmart’s knowledge of retail and Ribbin’s fintech expertise, Walmart will offer new “financial experiences” to Walmart customers and employees. Walmart will own the majority of the new company, though Walmart didn’t specify the percentage.
“For years, millions of customers have put their trust in Walmart to not only save them money when they shop with us but help them manage their financial needs. And they’ve made it clear they want more from us in the financial services arena,” John Furner, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. said, in a January 11, 2021 announcement. “We’re thrilled to work with Ribbit Capital in a new venture to help us deliver innovative and needed options to our customers and associates – with speed and at scale.”
Walmart already offers customers a range of financial services including the Walmart credit card and money card and check cashing, money transfers and installment financing services. It is not yet clear what new options the fintech startup will offer.
“Walmart has a relationship with millions of customers and associates built on trust, security and integrity,” said Meyer Malka, managing partner of Ribbit Capital. “When we combine our deep knowledge of technology-driven financial businesses and our ability to move with speed with Walmart’s mission and reach, we can create and deliver financial offerings that are second to none.”